To maximize sales, online retailers must make sure their technology is in sync with their marketing plans. They should also reassure consumers their sites are safe, make mobile shopping easy and find ways to increase the spend of their existing customers.

John Stevens, CEO, Hosting Facts

John Stevens, CEO, Hosting Facts

According to Internet Retailer’s analysis of data from the U.S. Commerce Department, online retail sales in the U.S. grew by 16 percent in 2017—the fastest since 2011. The pace has kept up in 2018: in July of this year, online retail sales grew by an estimated 17.2 percent, and all indications point to the fact that online retail sales will only be on an upward trajectory—with data showing that e-commerce sales increased from $1.3 trillion in 2014 to $2.3 trillion in 2017, and that it is expected to reach $4.5 trillion in 2021.

With such an optimistic outlook for e-commerce, it’s worth carefully reviewing how you approach your business if you’ve been experiencing dwindling e-commerce sales. The following are four solutions to dwindling e-commerce sales.

You need your existing customers far more than you need new customers.

1. Synergize the Strategic and Technical Aspects of Your E-commerce Efforts

Perhaps the most critical issue to look at when dealing with dwindling e-commerce sales is to ensure that there is synergy between the strategic and technical part of your e-commerce efforts. While many e-commerce businesses have solid strategy, good marketing, and enough advertising budget, little attention is often paid to the technical side and that jeopardizes their effort.

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It’s easy to think about a major e-commerce site that had a downtime during an important sale due to a lack of synergy between the strategic and technical aspects of their e-commerce effort. Best Buy quickly comes to mind: during the biggest sales day of the year, due to improper planning, their website suffered technical issues that kept it mostly inaccessible for most of the sales period. While Best Buy eventually reported an increase in revenue compared to the previous year, the downtime they suffered shows what happens if the strategic and technical sides of your e-commerce efforts do not agree. They had good offers, a well-laid out plan, and effective marketing…only to be let down by an unavailable site due to lack of proper technical planning.

While the Best Buy downtime was what made headlines, what didn’t is the sales they lost before the downtime. Before a website goes down due to massive traffic, it would have gradually gotten slower over time—costing the e-commerce business a lot of sales. Research shows that a one-second delay in site loading time will cost an e-commerce business up to 7 percent in conversions.

It is important to pay attention to how long it’s taking your website to load, and to ensure your website is always active and optimized.

Here are some tips for you:

  • Depending on the scale of your e-commerce business, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Unless you have qualified technicians that can monitor your servers and website 24/7, using a reliable website builder to develop your e-commerce site will ensure more site speed, performance, and uptime than using a custom CMS.
  • Take steps to ensure you don’t have to hear about downtimes on Twitter. Despite all your efforts, your offer might explode faster than you had anticipated. If you find out that you’re having server issues, or a downtime, first, you can still minimize the damage and reduce lost sales by getting your tech team to fix things. Don’t wait to, like Best Buy, find out on Twitter and Facebook that your website is down. Instead, automate monitoring of your site speed, performance, and uptime.
  • Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN): CDN’s can be especially helpful during periods of high traffic load, particularly if you are serving a global problem. They solve the two major issues you can experience when it comes to your website: site load time by serving the nearest version of your website to people and downtime by significantly reducing the requests to your server

2. Fine-tune Your Strategy for Allaying User Fears

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Many users won’t buy from your e-commerce store not because they are not interested in what you are selling, but because they are afraid—justifiably so. Afraid that they will be hacked if they input their credit card details on your website. Afraid that they will be stuck with a useless product if they decide they don’t like the product. When you address these concerns, you can double your e-commerce sales.

Here are some tips:

  • Only process payments through reliable, PCI-compliant third-party payment processors and ensure that users are aware of this fact.
  • Use trust seals and marks to let users know that they can shop safely on your website—it won’t take much effort to have a trust seal on your website, but research shows that as many as 61 percent of people won’t buy from a website that doesn’t use a trust seal.
  • Fix your return policy. A poor return policy isn’t hurting the people who want to buy from you, it is hurting you. Research shows that an inconvenient return policy will deter 80 percent of shoppers. So work on your return policy and add a strong money back guarantee to make people feel more comfortable shopping with you.

3. You Don’t Really Need New Customers

Okay, you do. But the point is this: You need your existing customers far more than you need new customers. Depending which source we are looking at, research shows it is five to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain existing customers.

If you take a look at successful e-commerce giant, Amazon, you will notice that one of its unique advantages is that it has mastered how to get each customer to pay more.

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As an e-commerce business, more than vanity metrics like traffic and reach, you need to pay more attention to your average order value (AOV) and your customer lifetime value (CLV). How much, on average, is a customer spending per order session on your e-commerce store? How much do you expect the average customer to spend over his/her lifetime? These are key factors to work on. If you can increase both your AOV and your CLV, you can double or triple profits without having to significantly increase costs.

Here are some tips:

  • Use cross-selling and upselling to get each customer to pay more per order session. It is particularly important to ensure that your cross-sells and upsells are carefully tailored to your users’ needs based on artificial intelligence, or you could risk pissing off your users.
  • Use retargeting to remarket your product and offers to existing customers. Since it’s much easier to sell to these users and get them to buy, you will get more sales while spending less if you use this approach.
  • Start building a database of your users and leverage permission-based email marketing to repeatedly expose them to your offer and increase sales.

4. Optimize the Mobile Experience

Of course, research shows that while people spend more shopping time on their mobile devices, more time is actually spent placing an order on a desktop. Don’t let that deceive you. It often takes multiple touchpoints for a sale to be closed.

It’s easier to research products on mobile devices while on the go. The fact that the majority of these sales doesn’t actually happen on mobile devices doesn’t mean mobile isn’t contributing to them.

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Take the following steps to optimize your mobile experience to boost your e-commerce sales:

  • Optimize your mobile website. Either use a responsive e-commerce website or automatically redirect users to a separate mobile website.
  • Optimize your mobile payment option. More and more people are making e-commerce payments on a mobile device, and the number of people doing so will only increase. Failure to do optimize your e-commerce experience for this people will cost you.
  • If possible, develop a mobile app and incentivize people to use it. The more they have you with them on the go, the higher your chances of closing a sale.

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